The Astell&Kern AK100 MQS Portable Player Trumps Pono

While we're waiting for 2013 and Neil Young to reveal all of the facts about his Pono player/service that appears to be based on a proprietary file format, Korea's Iriver has come to market with a portable player that supports good old-fashioned 24/192 files. The Astell&Kern AK100 MQS Portable System ($699) features a Wolfsen WM8740 24-bit DAC and 32GB of internal memory and can accommodate two 32GB MicroSDHC cards for total storage capacity of 96GB. The MQS Player supports WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG and APE formats (no AAC or Apple Lossless support) and sports a 2.4″ LCD IPS color screen and Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP/HFP and is about the size of a deck of cards (3.11 by 2.33 by 0.57 inches and weighs 4.30 ounces). There are optical audio outputs to connect to your DAC of choice, a micro USB port for charging and syncing media, a 5-band equalizer, and of course a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The Astell&Kern is the ultimate portable high-fidelity audio system capable of studio mastering quality sound (MQS). Feel the phenomenal realism of music though 24bit/192kHz high-resolution, lossless Mastering Quality Sound (MQS) that cannot be heard on a CD.

When compared to CDs, the music files used during the mastering process in studios (24bit/192kHz) contains 6.5 times more information and results in a more original, precise and enhanced sound.

If things were only always just like that picture....There are other like-devices out there including the HiFiMAN HM-801 player ($790 w/32GB SDHC card) that can handle up to 24/96 files but the Astell&Kern MQS Portable Player has raised the bar with its 192kHz capability.

You can read more about the Astell&Kern MQS Portable Player here.

firedog55's picture

$700 without extra SD card: doesn't play apple lossless.

PC Mag said it sounded great; but if you are in Apple Lossless and iTunes, it isn't worth the trouble. BTW, PCM said it also sounded fantastic playing back good ol' Redbook.

John Grandberg's picture

My biggest complaint would be the 22 ohm output impedance. Say goodbye to a suitably high damping factor with most headphones on the market. High impedance models from Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic should be fine but really the target market would be using in-ear models with low impedance. The result will be all sorts of unpredictable frequency response variation. 

burnspbesq's picture

I have read, but have not yet been able to confirm, that the removal or bypass of one resistor will drop the output impedance to around one ohm.  I've also heard that Red Wine Audio is planning to market an "AKMod," similar to their iMod series of upgraded iPods, that will fix the output impedance and do other unspecified spiffing up of the device.

All of which is good, but the output impedance and the lack of AIFF and Apple Lossless support both belong in the category of What Were They Thinking.

deckeda's picture

 = cost savings from open source or other off-the-shelf software

WMA and OGG. APE? In 2012? Right

labjr's picture

$700 does seem a little steep.

Who is Astell & Kern? Sounds like a piano company or a law firm?

Apple needs to come up with a 24/192 player soon.

Wolfsen 8740 doesn't do DSD so I guess there won't be a firmware DSD upgrade.

burnspbesq's picture

... is iRiver's upscale, "aspirational" brand.

Kinda like Acura.

DMark1's picture

Sounds great, but at $699, I'm not all that excited about having to have it modded to fix the output impedance.  I will probably wait until v.2, when they add AIFF and DSD support and fix the output impedance for in-ear monitors. Then they will truly have an awesome product!

monetschemist's picture

Just for the record, from someone who's tired of seeing devices that only support iTunes favourite formats or MP3 or WMA: thanks iRiver for making it support FLAC.  Great to see an open format supported from the get-go.

Maybe Apple could get off its butt and support FLAC instead of everyone else having to support Apple's formats.

deckeda's picture

AIFF and ALAC are as "open format" as anyone could want. More to the point, they are license-free. Hardware makers that continue to ignore those file formats also ignore the world's most popular song database manager which is the larger issue.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

The The Astell&Kern AK100 High Definition Portable Audio Player now supports AAC, ALAC AND AIFF.

tonyd's picture

According to A&K's slow & obtuse support staff. They were unforthcoming about what that might cost. Bet that it will not be cheap.